Landscaping with lights: 16 enchanting ways to illuminate your space

Landscaping with lights will transform any backyard into a dramatic and atmospheric nighttime scene

landscaping with lights: john cullen lighting surrounding seating area at Chelsea Flower Show
(Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

You'll need to incorporate landscaping with lights into your garden for maximum impact when day turns to night. And if you're wondering what kind of looks can be achieved, you've come to the right place.

Outdoor lighting ideas are a must for any plot – not only for aesthetics but for practicality too. From string lights wrapped around pergolas to candle-lit lanterns and stylish pendants above a dining zone, there are plenty of options out there. 

But when it comes to lighting up your landscaping, it's a little different. There's less focus on the light fixtures themselves – in fact, they're often disguised amongst foliage, or recessed into walls or floors to stay out of the way. They're generally used to highlight key features of your garden – think a statement tree, a living wall, or perhaps a pond. And, when planned well, a landscaping lighting scheme will add a ton of atmosphere to a space and create a dramatic vista that can be enjoyed from both in and out of the home. Our round-up of designs will certainly help get you inspired.

16 show-stopping ideas for landscaping with lights

Introducing carefully-considered lighting to your plot can have transformative effects on your landscaping ideas. We've brought together some of our favorite looks for you to peruse and perhaps recreate in your own backyard.

1. Light up all the levels in your yard

modern courtyard with lights from Detail Lighting

This modern backyard is brought to life come nightfall with lights from Detail Lighting

(Image credit: Detail Lighting)

When planning your landscaping with lights, don't think one-dimensionally. You can create a much more impressive and dramatic display if you layer up the look by illuminating multiple levels.

Keeping the brightness low to maintain ambiance, consider adding recessed spotlights to flooring, stakes to flower beds, and wall lights to your boundaries. And if you have an extension or garden building, you could even add lights to the roof. Take this patio lighting scheme, for instance, where illuminated shrubs up high add extra visual interest to the scene.

2. Illuminate your front garden for a striking first impression

front yard lighting from Detail Lighting

A stunning front yard lighting scheme from Detail Lighting

(Image credit: Detail Lighting)

'To create a warm and welcoming feeling, an entrance should be well lit, but not over lit,' says Piero de Marchis, founder of Detail Lighting. 'Consider wall lights either side of the door or possibly a recessed spotlight from above for a porch. If you are opting for one light, place it on the side where the keyhole and door handle are as it will make it easier when unlocking your door. Above all, ensure it is warm, inviting and makes guests feel safe.'

If you're looking to implement some new driveway ideas, then plan your lighting at the same time to make life easy. 'Exterior lighting for walkways, driveways and steps is far easier and more effective if you plan it in at the construction stage,' says Piero. 'This not only gives you more options which are likely to be less intrusive, but it also enables you to custom-install cabling before anything is built. There's nothing worse than having to channel through a perfectly-set driveway or dig up the perfect lawn.'

Looking for more inspo? You can find lots of driveway lighting ideas in our dedicated guide.

3. Highlight outdoor living zones

modern covered seating areas with lights

Give your seating spaces a welcoming glow

(Image credit: caia image/Alamy Stock Photo)

'Entertaining outdoors has become increasingly popular and with that, more attention is being paid to the ambiance of our external living spaces such as patios, and dining and cooking areas,' says Piero.

'We tend to think of these areas as extensions of our homes – outdoor rooms, even. Patios are now our outdoor lounges where we can sit and socialize with friends and family well into the evening. Alfresco eating areas are our outdoor dining rooms. Both require subtle, intimate lighting that relaxes guests and encourages conversation. 

'Consider soft, indirect lighting and use surfaces to absorb and diffuse light,' Piero continues. 'Strategically-situated dimmable LED linear lighting and inground lighting can create a feeling of floating, whilst thoughtful pendant lights and ceiling lighting can illuminate faces and table settings.'

Think about defining the boundaries of these 'rooms', too – here, subtle deck lighting establishes the edge of the lawn.

4. Combine recessed lighting with stone features

illuminated garden with Artisans of Devizes' Wychwood Limestone Tumbled & Etched Finish paving

(Image credit: Artisans of Devizes)

Give your home the wow factor by showcasing its exterior at night. This scheme features plenty of small-yet-powerful outdoor wall lights which illuminate the rustic brickwork and veranda for an inviting effect. And, their recessed design means they won't get in the way or cause a trip hazard.

The scheme continues across the garden's levels, drawing the eye to a large raised bed and a curve of stone steps (which, in turn, will also help avoid any stumbling mishaps). Note the stone bench's cleverly integrated lighting too – it's tucked just beneath the edge of the seat, transforming it into a welcoming evening space.

5. Line a pond for an impressive focal point

john cullen lighting lining narrow pond with topiary shrubs

A dazzling scene from John Cullen Lighting

(Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

Avoid installing lights aimlessly around your outside space – it's unlikely to create the show-stopping impact you're after. Instead, 'before choosing your garden lighting, decide which areas in your garden you want to emphasize after it turns dark,' advises the experts at Homebase.

Combining lighting with your garden pond ideas is a brilliant option. When lit up, ponds can appear even more beautiful and dramatic than they do by day. Plus, of course, lighting will deter anyone from accidentally falling in. 

You can get underwater pond lights which will create an enchanting glow, but a more subtle approach is to light up the plants on the perimeter, as seen here. We love the sense of grandeur these illuminated box balls give to the space, while the shimmering reflections can be enjoyed from all different angles.

6. Illuminate a living wall

garden with illuminated living wall and bistro set designed by Maitanne Hunt and constructed by The Garden Builders

This chic setup was designed by Maïtanne Hunt and constructed by The Garden Builders

(Image credit: Jacek Wac/Alamy Stock Photo)

Have you jumped on board the living wall trend yet? These features are a great way to add an extra dose of greenery to a patio and make a stylish alternative to a plain fence or wall. They're also particularly good if you're looking for small garden ideas as a way of packing in more plants without taking up floor space.

Add in lights (we recommend string lights) and you can enjoy the verdant, jungle-like scene even when the sun goes down. We think you'll agree from looking at this stylish urban courtyard that the result is nothing short of stunning.

7. Give a warm glow to a sunken seating space

john cullen lighting surrounding seating area at Chelsea Flower Show

This striking show garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show designed by Hay-Joung Hwang features a beautiful lighting scheme by John Cullen Lighting

(Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

This sunken seating area is simply gorgeous and, thanks to all the lighting landscape ideas at play, would be perfect for evening entertaining. 

Spotlights highlight the architectural forms of the surrounding trees, framing the outdoor television with a flourish. Meanwhile, tucked-away lighting along the bottom edge of the wraparound bench gives the seating space a warm glow. The outdoor kitchen beyond has plenty of clever lighting features too – layering spotlights and downlights to provide practicality and ambiance that can be enjoyed from all areas of the garden.

Looking to upgrade your own entertaining space? You'll find lots of outdoor seating ideas in our guide.

8. Position subtle uplights beneath trees

garden lighting in seating area using Kimmeridge Limestone Tumbled & Etched Finish paving by artisans of devizes

(Image credit: Artisans of Devizes)

Even small trees can be brought to life at dusk with discreet uplights, as shown in this eye-catching setup. This creates a lovely view wherever the trees are positioned, but if they're alongside a wall you'll get the added bonus of intricate shadow displays. You could even try it with potted trees – our guide to the best trees to grow in pots will come in handy if you want to give it a go.

Look closely and you'll also spot the simple downlight positioned above the doorway – a practical addition that looks great, too.

9. Bring your planters to life once the sun sets

lighting in planter from Detail Lighting

Lights from Detail Lighting pep up these planters

(Image credit: Detail Lighting)

Don't let your carefully curated container gardening ideas go unnoticed once dusk falls. Tucking stake lights into the planters will give the displays a whole new nighttime look and means they can still be admired.

Whether you've used structural grasses and clipped evergreens for a modern effect or billowing, romantic florals, this is a surefire way to make a stunning feature – particularly if they're lining your patio or deck.

10. Transform a lackluster wall into a feature

recessed spotlights along wall from Detail Lighting

Small spotlights from Detail Lighting transform this wall

(Image credit: Detail Lighting)

'Outdoor lighting can also be highly effective at creating something from nothing,' says Piero. For example, it can totally transform a blank garden wall.

'By aiming a wide beam of light from below or above, a wall can be washed with light and bring its warm tones to life,' he explains. 'Alternatively, positioning the beam closer to the wall can catch and accentuate the natural texture of the wall itself using light and shadow. 

'However, if you have a modern home with a "perfect" finish, any slight imperfections and undulations would be exposed by positioning the light close to the wall. So, consider the position of your exterior lighting carefully – possibly even experiment at night using a wide beamed torch to see how light affects the surface.'

11. Turn heads with a fire pit

outdoor lighting around modern fire pit feature

Let your fire pit take center stage

(Image credit: Kevin McCarthy/Alamy Stock Photo)

The best fire pits are one of the new must-have garden features. And really, it's to no surprise – they keep everyone cozy when temperatures drop and add a statement focal point to any scene.

They can also play a part in your landscaping with lights scheme, as seen above. We love how this textural, spherical design oozes with contemporary style and has been given the spotlight, quite literally, by two angled spike lights. A third light picks out the structure of a nearby tree with a bold pinkish glow, enhancing an air of intrigue and drama.

12. Light up your steps

garden with recessed wall lights stone steps swimming pool and covered shelter

All garden steps will benefit from lights

(Image credit: Elliott Kaufman/The Image Bank Unreleased/Getty Images)

There are all kinds of garden steps ideas to consider when planning levels in your backyard. But one thing's for certain: they will all benefit from some nighttime lighting. Not only does it look good, but it has safety implications too – you don't want yourself or your guests to trip.

This smart series of rectangular recessed lights are perfect for the job, and reflect across the nearby pool, too. Additional wall lights tie into the scheme, whilst the large, lit-up outdoor room takes center stage.

13. Add lights to your decking

deck lighting around swimming pool in modern garden

Illuminate your walkways for a chic look

(Image credit: imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo)

Recessed lighting isn't just for paving, walls, or ceilings – it can be used in decking too. Take this stylish pool space, for instance, where the series of lights guides guests safely around the walkway.

'Deck lighting is the perfect way to reinforce the modern aspect of a garden,' says Lights4fun. 'You can find lighting options that are small and neat, making them the perfect addition to any small space and adhere to the clean and crisp city look. With various solar or plug-in options, it is a seamless process to insert your lights into decking and power them.'

We love the eye-catching light-up garden planters in this scene too – a brilliant way to add a sense of fun.

14. Bring a waterfall to life after dark

illuminated garden waterfall feature

Turn a waterfall into an elegant focal point at night

(Image credit: Kevin McCarthy/Alamy Stock Photo)

We mentioned underwater pond lights above, and here's a beautiful example of them in use. Pond ideas with waterfalls always make a lovely feature, so it seems a shame to let one sink into the shadows when night comes around. After all, what could make a more elegant backdrop when enjoying alfresco evening drinks?

Pond lights will give it the attention it deserves and capture the soothing movement of the flowing water for a striking scene. Don't be afraid to bring in a touch of color for extra impact – like the soft pink tone used to the side of this setup.

15. Add drama by illuminating trees

Glow illuminations at RHS Garden Wisley. December 2020.

Colorful lights give added impact to these trees at Glow at RHS Garden Wisley

(Image credit: RHS/Joanna Kossak)

This beautiful lighting scheme is at the winter Glow event at RHS Garden Wisley. It uses a spectrum of colors to create a show-stopping, other-worldly scene. And if you've got a larger garden and well-established trees with relatively open canopies, there's nothing stopping you from trying it at home.

Of course, you don't have to go for a range of colors if you don't want to – a warm, white hue will create just as much impact. Bear in mind that the bigger the tree, the more power you'll need to light it up successfully, which will increase the electricity costs.

You can find more info on how much does garden lighting cost in our guide.

16. Uplight your boundaries

garden lighting along fence

Show off a smart fence

(Image credit: Ian Lamond/Alamy Stock Photo)

Whether you've given your garden fence a new lick of paint or opted for a stylish trellised design, a series of spike lights is an easy way to show it off when night falls and create a welcoming vibe. 

If you have flower beds alongside your garden boundaries, play around with the positioning of the lights to create interesting silhouettes and shadows. You could consider highlighting a favorite plant, too – such as this colorful acer.

Don't be afraid to layer up your scheme for different effects. Here, for example, we like how additional globe-shaped lights have been added to bring extra definition and character to a seating spot.

What is the best color for landscape lighting?

With landscaping with lights, you can create wonderful results, but pick the wrong color and it might miss the mark. 

Lighting color is measured on a Kelvin (K) scale, which refers to how cold or warm the tone is. The lower the number, the more amber the tone: 3000K and below is considered warm. Higher numbers have a cooler, more bluish-white tone.

It's best to stay away from cooler tones when planning your landscaping lighting. As the experts at Lightology explain on their website, bluish tones can make environments appear 'sickly or unnatural, imparting a sense of uneasiness, and being on edge.' Instead, they suggest opting for warm color temperatures – '2700K LED is ideal, and 3000K is okay, too.' The former mimics the comforting glow of a campfire, so it's ideal for a laid-back outdoor living space. Slightly cooler tones can often be better matched for contemporary themes.

At the end of the day, however, it's all down to the look you want to create. Plus, you may wish to use some bolder colors in your scheme, such as red, yellow, or green for additional drama.

john cullen lighting scheme with swimming pool

Slightly cooler lights work well for contemporary spaces – like in this design by John Cullen Lighting

(Image credit: John Cullen Lighting)

Where should you place your landscaping lights?

Hopefully, you'll now have some ideas on where to place your landscaping lights in your yard. But there are a few extra things that are useful to remember when figuring out how to plan garden lighting.

  • One of the most popular ways to use landscape lighting is to highlight key features, and this is generally done with angled spotlights. Remember that if a light is positioned further away from the feature, the effect will be more diffused.
  • To create a silhouette effect – perhaps for a garden planter, sculpture, or topiary shrub – place your spotlight behind whatever you want to bring attention to, but point it towards a wall rather than the feature itself.
  • Pathways, steps, and the perimeter of water (whether that's a pond or a pool) are other go-to positions for landscaping lighting for safety reasons as well as aesthetic appeal.
  • For seating areas, it's important not to dazzle your guests. That's why subtle lights tucked beneath benches are a good idea. Recessed lights along the boundaries of a zone – for instance, a patio or decking – are also useful and will give the area more definition.
  • You can also create what's known as moonlighting. This, as the name suggests, is when downlights are used to recreate the effect of the moon. The lights are normally positioned high up in trees, casting soft, silvery pools of light onto paths, often with interesting shadows from the foliage. Speaking of trees, you can find more outdoor tree lighting ideas in our feature.
Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.